Perfectly Stuffed: A White Wine for Turkey Day

By Christianna Sargent
November 11, 2011
Special to Falls Church Times

Thanksgiving presents a truly American festive meal, laden with starch, spice, sugar, and the inevitable turkey roast—the ultimate tryptophan rush.  Splashes of burnt orange, crimson red, pecan brown, and pine green decorate the table and mirror the fall foliage outdoors. This time of year sets the mood for cozy afternoons indoors where warm, winter light floods bay windows, and a glimpse outside reveals a picturesque setting of falling, painted leaves. The brisk chill in the air only prepares the heart further for comfort food served up hot and the ever-charming glass of wine.

Thanksgiving will always be my favorite family holiday, and not just because of the food and the fact that no presents are needed; but, mainly because Thanksgiving is a true wine meal. The wine choices, though, are limitless and daunting at some levels, especially for folks who are just looking to adorn the table with some good tasting juice and leave the vino contemplation for the snobs. So rather than name off all the usual culprits that you see listed in every food magazine and wine editorial,  I’m going to say the opposite: stay away from Sauvignon Blanc, don’t bother with Cabernet Sauvignon, skip the Italians, forget the Pinots, Malbecs and Zinfandels save for another day. Keep it simple this year, and explore the broad, stylistic wine selection from one small region, the Loire Valley. I promise you, it offers all the stuffing you need and more…

This majestic region sits farther up the Loire Valley just south of Paris and can be compared to other renowned places of beauty such as Venice, the Pyramids of Giza, and the Grand Canyon! Otherwise known as the Garden of France, this region between the cities of Angers and Tours stretches along a slow-churning river flanked by 300 chateaux, vineyards, and gardens, and was named a UNESCO world heritage site. This beautiful region is home to the Chenin Blanc and Cabernet Franc grapes.

The Chenin Blanc grape is what we shall focus on for the Thanksgiving meal. Yes, I say, even if it is just a white wine. Chenin is especially versatile and comes in many different forms from dry to sweet, sparkling, rosé, and decades-old (possibly longer-lived than Riesling). In other words, red-wine drinking fans, this will be the perfect wine to indulge in during the meal, and after turn to your reds as you sit back in Turkey Lovers Lane swooning in a food coma. This chameleon of a grape pairs so perfectly at the Thanksgiving feast, and sadly, it is so unfamiliar to Americans. It is the Old World’s answer to California Chardonnay, but on a much eloquent, refined scale. No big oak-bombs represent this category. Rather, the wine itself is highly extracted (like Chardonnay) and highly acidic (unlike Chardonnay), making it a great food pair. Plus, it is susceptible to the famous “noble rot” that glorifies the vineyards of Sauternes (the honey-like, age-worthy dessert wine from Bordeaux). You can spend as little or as much as you like on it, and Loire Chenin Blanc can even be found at your local grocer. While you are out label-hunting for Thanksgiving, have a quick chat with the wine retailer you frequent, ask for Vouvray, Savennieres, Coteaux du Layon, Quarts de Chaume, or Bonnezeaux (listed in relative order of increasing price). None of these are easy to pronounce, so Google it! Or rely on your handy Iphone or Droid apps to peruse the wine cellar jargon. Either way, it’s simple to go to the French section and spot one of these names, even if you just point and don’t utter.

You will not regret the aromatic qualities of a good Chenin Blanc: ripe Georgia peach topped with whipped cream, quince paste and succulent apricot, Fuji apple and Bosc pear. Top this with a touch of marzipan cake framed by toasted nuts, and you have a mouth-watering Chenin Blanc just full-bodied enough to match with your roasted fall vegetables, seasoned turkey, and sweet potato casserole.

Just so you won’t get lost in the French aisle, I will list a few of my favorites you can spot around town:

Bernard Fouquet Domaine des Aubuisiers Cuvée de Silex Vouvray, Loire France $18 (at Weygandt Wines in Cleveland Park)

Domaine de Baumard Savennières, Loire France $18 (Whole Foods and Red, White & Bleu)

Domaine Jo Pithon Coteaux du Layon, Loire France $22 (MacArthurs)

Domaine Jo Pithon Quarts de Chaume, Loire France $100 (MacArthurs)

Chateau de Fesles Bonnezeaux, Loire France $70 (Schneiders)

Christianna Sargent
Certified Sommelier
Advanced Certificate–
Wine & Spirits Education Trust
Association of Italian Sommeliers
French Wine Scholar

Liberty Tavern’s Liam LaCivita

October 28, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

BY Kathleen Nixon

October 28, 2011

Falls Church Times Staff

Liam LaCivita, Executive Chef at Liberty Tavern is our next Falls Church Farmers Market Chef. His demonstration is tomorrow, Saturday, October 29th from 9am to 11am. (The demonstration is now rescheduled for Saturday, November 5th)  Liam shares with us some of his background and philosophy on local cuisine.

Tell our readers a little about your background? Why did you get into cooking? Who inspired you? What have been some of your challenges as your career has advanced? What is new on the horizon for you?

I am half Irish and half Italian.  A lot of the food that I do is based on those two cultures.  I got into cooking primarily because I found it as another way of using my creativity in a more immediate way.  Food has always been an integral part of my life, through the traveling I did with my family and of course the food in my family has always been the center of attention. Some of my challenges in my career is constantly staying ahead of the curve, that being a chef is not all about cooking.  That is what I like most about being a chef, is that it is constantly evolving.  One minute your human resources, next minute a line cook, next minute a plumber…hahaha!

Tell us a little about your restaurant, your staff and how you incorporate local producers into your restaurant purchasing?

The Liberty Tavern is an American Regional restaurant that focuses on the use of seasonal and local ingredients.  We never opened the The Liberty Tavern specifically as that, to me it has always been common sense to use local and seasonal foods in my cooking.  That must be the Italian in me.

You work with many of the local producers? Who do you work with?

Dragon Creek, Polyface Farms, Trickling Springs Creamery, Jenkins orchards, Tuscarora organic Co-op and The Fresh Link. The last two are co-ops that bring small farmers products to the restaurants.

As a customer, what changes have you seen in the local food landscape?

I have seen many changes in the local food scene, hell just the fact that people are starting to understand a tomato doesn’t taste very good in February is a big change.

When did you start using local ingredients in creating your menu and recipes?

I have been using local ingredients probably since 1995/1996.  But specifically around 1997/98 when I was sous chef at 21 Federal in Nantucket where the local natural resources and farms dictated what I wanted to serve.  Everything was seasonal, it just made sense.

What ingredients has been the most challenging to work with?

No ingredient is really challenging.  Though if foraging for mushrooms, it is always interesting the proper way to cook mushrooms that I have never seen before.

Do you think your customers understand and appreciate your incorporation of local food into your menus?

I truly believe our customers appreciate and understand the food we serve and the use of local ingredients.  I know that because they tell me themselves.  That I appreciate.

What local ingredients are not yet available to the local economy that you would like to incorporate into your menu?

There are a lot of foraged local ingredients that don’t make it to the local economy. I would like for that to start changing.

How long have you been part of the Farmers Market Chef series?

This is my third or fourth year I believe.

What do you like best about the Farmers Market Chef series? Any challenges or surprises?

I love the sense of community at the Falls Church Farmers Market.  I like that it is almost a social event as well as a shopping experience.

What will you be preparing for your demonstration?

A medley of crostinis with housemade goat ricotta with Liberty Tavern bacon, caramelized farmers market apples, local greens; Wild mushrooms, truffled honey, sea salt and thyme; and roasted brussels sprout leaves with lemon marinade.

Due to the weather, we have rescheduled the Farmers Market Demonstration for Saturday, November 5th.

Dine Out for Farms Week

October 21, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

BY Kathleen Nixon

October 21, 2011

Falls Church Times Staff

As the harvest is in full swing, it is time for the second annual Dine Out for Farms™ week. A national program supports saving farms and farmland by dining at participating restaurants through October 23rd. This celebration of food, farmers and the land needed to grow it was created to educate diners about the importance of farms while raising money to save farmland.

According to the Trust, each year we lose land the size of Delaware to asphalt and buildings that was once productive farmland. Once this productive land is lost to development, it cannot be brought back and along with it the ability for America to produce its own food.

Each week we see our local farmers at the Falls Church Farmers Market, but we don’t realize the challenges that they face providing our food. Every day, more family farmers are facing economic difficulties making it a challenge for them to stay on their land. Uncertain economic conditions, federal regulations and the urban sprawl test the most committed farm families. We are also facing a shortage of young people or new farmers who are ready to continue America’s farming tradition. Today, almost 60 percent of farmers are 55 or older.

This year, Dine Out for Farms restaurants are participating in several ways: offering a special dish, contributing a percentage of sales during the week or making a straight donation to help save farms.  By patronizing any one of the restaurants during Dine Out for Farms™ week, we can show that we care about protecting America’s farmland and the delicious food that it provides by dining at one of these participating restaurants.

There are many restaurants in our area that are participating in this national program including many right here in our community such as Open Kitchen, Clyde’s and Silver Diner.  You can stay locally or head on out to the lovely countryside and dine at the Restaurant at Patowmack Farms – one of my personal favorites.

To view a list of participating restaurants, visit Or you can make a reservation through Open Table the Official Reservation Partner

Silver Diner

Clyde’s of Reston
Reston, VA

The Grille at Morrison House
Alexandria, VA

Maple Ave Restaurant
Vienna, VA

Open Kitchen
Falls Church, VA

The Restaurant at Patowmack Farm
Lovettsville, VA

FOOD: Dinner at Ray’s the Steaks

September 23, 2011 by · 4 Comments 

By Ra Chan

September 23, 2011

Special to Falls Church Times

On our way home, my husband, and I were trying to figure out dinner plans; after throwing out a few ideas, he wanted to take me to one of our favorite places for an impromptu date night. We’ve been a fan of Ray’s the Steaks since they were at their old location next to Hell Burger. What really attracts me to the new location is that they now take reservations and the space is much larger. In all actually, we’ve never had a tough time getting a table; we tend to get their before the peak of the dinner rush.

So after getting to our table and ordering a glass of wine, it was time to make that all important decision — which cut of beef did we want for dinner? I’ve never had a bad steak here, so I knew without a doubt, whatever we decided to go with, it would still be an amazing dinner.

I started off with the Caesar salad and got the crab bisque. I’m normally not a fan of bisque, I prefer more texture to my soup. But this one was outstanding with an amazing amount of lump crab meat! The soup was so creamy with the delicate sweetness of concentrated crab and just a hint of ground pepper.

I ordered the El Diablo steak, cooked medium with a side of the spicy piranha sauce. This steak was a top sirloin, grilled in a spicy sauce and topped with roasted garlic and sautéed onions. The garlic just melted over the steak; I even found myself spreading the garlic over the steak like butter! The sirloin was cooked to perfection. I normally love the piranha sauce, which is a spicier version of chimichurri sauce, but I didn’t really need this sauce since the spicy sauce that coated the steak gave it the perfect amount of flavor and seasoning.

My husband got the steak Bertolucci – NY strip served with roasted bone marrow, and served in a roasted garlic and red wine reduction sauce. The sauce really complimented the intense beef flavor and the bone marrow provided that extra punch, with its very smooth, creamy and buttery consistency.

This was definitely another successful meal at Ray’s. I love this place for so many reasons – the amazing cuts of beef, the completely reasonable prices, and the complimentary creamed spinach and mashed potatoes. I feel like I’m dining at a 5 star establishment and getting the best beef available, but I don’t feel out of place walking in with jeans and flip flops. As we lingered at dinner over a cup of coffee and some peanut butter truffles, I couldn’t help but just sit back and go over the meal in my head again. It was delicious and I relished every bite.

2300 Wilson Boulevard
Arlington, VA 22201


FOOD: World Fare- A Street Food Festival

September 23, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

BY Kathleen Nixon

September 23, 2011

Falls Church Times Staff

Want to enjoy International Food and Support a Good Cause? Join Women Chefs & Restaurateurs (WCR) as they present their annual World Fare: A Street Food Festival on Sunday October 2nd from 5pm – 8pm at Willow Restaurant. Stroll through the “World Fare” and enjoy fabulous street fare menu items while meeting the region’s top women chefs, sommeliers, farmers, bee keepers, cheese makers, food truck operators and more. You can sample beer, wine and craft cocktails from the best women brewers, wine makers and mixologists from our area. Nycci Nellis from WTOP’s Foodie and the Beast, and and auctioneer, Carla Hall, Top Chef Finalist and co-host of ABC’s new show “The Chew” will be your hosts and emcees.

Stroll through the “World Fare” and enjoy fabulous street fare menu items including: Tamales de Camaron: Shrimp Tamales Spiedini Misti: Grilled Quail Sausage, Red Onion and Apple, SabaKalua Pork in Hawaiian Salt and Banana Leaves with Sticky Rice and Mac SaladDal wada( Fried Lentil Croquets)Oysters on the Half Shell with Ginger Sake Mignonette Farmstead Cheese Amuse-GueulesGrilled Octopus, Yogurt and Feta Pita Pockets Assorted Wood-Fired Oven Pizzas Lemongrass Chicken Skewers on a Green Papaya SaladRice Paper Shrimp Spring Rolls with Sweet Chili Sauce Crab and Lancaster County Corn FrittersRillettes, Pates and Chicken Liver Mousse with Breads, Crostinis, Cornichons, Pickled Onions, Housemade Mostarda Organic Pulled Pork BBQ with Healthy Slaw on a Sweet Potato Biscuit Masala Chai (Spiced Tea)Sweet and Savory Cookie Collection Caramel Corn Almond Fig Tartlets with Balsamic Caramel Pumpkin Cheesecake Sundaes Pineapple Orange Ginger Sorbet and more!

Willow Restaurant
4301 N. Fairfax Drive
Arlington, VA 22203

Sunday, October 2, 2011
5:00 to 8:00 PM

Tickets: $65 per person in advance, $75 per person at the door
(ticket prices are inclusive of all food & beverage)

To purchase tickets

FOOD: Sichuan Style Hot Pot at Mala Tang

BY Ra Chan

August 12, 2011

Special to Falls Church Times

About a week ago, my Twitter feed was going crazy with all tweets from my fellow bloggers and foodies about this place, Mala Tang. My husband had also mentioned to me a while ago about this new hot pot style place that he thought I would like. I love eating hot pot style; one of my favorite Cambodian dishes is cooked in a hot pot. So of course, it’s been on the back of my mind to finally try.

So what is the deal with this Sichuan place? The plates are supposed to mimic Chinese style street food. You know, whenever you watch the travel channel and someone is strolling through the streets of China that are just bustling with various street vendors; all you see are mouthwatering skewers, pots of boiling soup and freshly made noodles. Mala Tang tries to recreate that experience with various plates that tantalize all the senses, but minus the noise and congestion.

Walking into the restaurant for dinner, I was very impressed with how big the dining space was. The dark wood furniture gives the place a definite “Asian” feel. As soon as we sat down, the waitress explained the protocol for ordering and even gave us recommendations for appetizers. Each diner is given their own small hot pot and you can choose from two broths, traditional or vegetarian. After that, you can choose your level of spiciness – mild, mala or extra mala. We were adventurous and ordered the mala and extra mala. Then you choose your variety of proteins and vegetables to eat fondue style.

To start, we got the recommendations, the Dan Dan noodles and Zhong dumplings.

The Dan Dan noodles came out first and our waitress gave it a quick stir tableside to coat the noodles. It was small plate of delicious rice noodles, greens and ground pork. It was amazing. The flavors were so new to me. It was so savory and just a hint of spiciness. It was a great way to get my mouth ready for what was to come.

Next up were the Zhong dumplings. The presentation was gorgeous! I wasn’t a fan of the dumplings though. I felt that the wrapper was too thick and not enough filling. The sauce was delicious though, perfectly spicy.

After all our dishes were taken away, the waitress came by with some little sauce dishes. She then proceeded to make a dipping sauce for us; it was a combination of soy sauce, sesame oil and hot pepper. It was delicious. I’m thinking of making that as my go to dipping sauce at home now.

Next, she brought out our broths for the hot pot, mala and extra mala (super extra spicy). We got to sample each. The mala broth reminded me a lot of bun bo hue (Vietnamese spicy noodles), but with more lemongrass. The spicy level was perfect, it was definitely spicy, but not overpowering; and I loved the combinations of garlic and ginger. The extra mala on the other hand, was another level of spicy. It was good, but I couldn’t get over the amount of heat. I would only be using that broth sparingly.

So our spread was shrimp, lobster balls, sirloin and watercress. From what I could tell, everything looked really fresh. The watercress was amazingly crisp and the perfect vegetable to simmer in the hot pot. We just cooked things as we ate them. I didn’t want to thicken the broth with everything at once. And it proved to be a perfect leisurely dinner. We took our time with cooking the items and savoring the flavors. The proteins were great with the sesame/soy dipping sauce.

I’m happy to report that this was another successful dinner outing. I loved the vibe at Mala Tang, it definitely looks like a new hot spot. And to entice more customers, they have a great happy hour special. I will definitely be coming back!

Mala Tang

3434 Washington Blvd.

Arlington, VA 22201

(703) 243-2381

FOOD: Steve Mannino of Rustico

July 29, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

BY Kathleen Nixon

July 29, 2011

Falls Church Times Staff

This Saturday at the Falls Church Farmers Market Chef demonstration we will be featuring Steve Mannino of Rustico. Steve will be bringing his rustic creativity to dishes that will feature summer vegetable favorites.

Tell our readers a little about your background? I am the Executive Chef at Rustico which is a combination of rustic and sophisticated Italian cooking with an awesome array of 400 beers. We first opened on Slater’s Lane in Alexandria and we opened a second location in Ballston last year.  I was trained at the Culinary Institute in New York and have had the pleasure of working with some dynamite chefs over the years.  My passion is creating rustic dishes with innovate nuances.

Tell us a little about your restaurant, your staff and how you incorporate local producers into your restaurant purchasing? The restaurant is very rustic.  We try not to mask our food too much.  We try to keep it as local as possible which means we run a very seasonal menu that changes frequently with a lot of specials.  Often times, our specials are driven by day of phone calls about what is available.  I also have a chef du cuisine for both locations that understands how we plan and develop menus.  We use farmers from Loudoun to St. Mary’s Counties (and anywhere in between) to keep things fun and fresh.

You work with many of the local producers? Who do you work with? One of our biggest producers is Arcadia Farms which is our own in house nonprofit farm located on the historic Woodlawn Plantation. We are getting most of our vegetables from here as well as providing produce for a farmers market in Southwest DC. We also work with two farmers in Loudoun that are presently providing us with tomatoes and garlic as well – Shah alee Farms.  We also use Ayshire farms in Upperville for vegetables and occasional meats. We also are getting local corn, tomatoes and fish from Maryland, specifically Bartenfelder and Dragon Creek Farms.

As a customer, what changes have you seen in the local food landscape?

Availability of product.  People are beginning to grow more unique varieties at the request of restaurants.  For example, I’m working with a grower in VA to produce a local San Marzano variety of tomato.  When producers know there will be a demand, then they will work to grow it and are as excited as I am about creating something new and different.

When did you start using local ingredients in creating your menu and recipes?

I’ve always done it.  All of the chefs that I’ve worked for have believed in sourcing things locally to some degree.  It hasn’t always been 100% , but as diners’ expectations have become more in sync with local growing, it’s gotten a lot closer to it.

Do you think your customers understand and appreciate your incorporation of local food into your menus?

I hope so, but I’m realistic that some people want what they want even when things are drastically out of season.  Part of my job is to educate by keeping our menus as seasonal as possible and by communicating menu changes in a manner that both keeps our guests content as well as keeps the quality consistent with what Mother Nature allows.

What local ingredients are not yet available to the local economy that you would like to incorporate into your menu?

Being a very rustic and straight forward restaurant, really everything that we need is locally available.  We try not to over think our menu and for that reason, it stays local and approachable.

How long have you been part of the Farmers Market Chef series?

I started doing Farmers Market demonstrations in 1999 at the Dupont Fresh Farmers Market, but this is my first time at the Falls Church Farmers Market.

What do you like best about the Farmers Market demonstrations?

The most fun is honesty, meeting customers and sharing our philosophy of food and answering their questions.

What will you be preparing for your demonstration?

Panzanella Salad which is a Florentine salad made with tomato, bread, cucumber and fresh mozzarella salad which is a great meal starter and very popular in Italy in the summer. Highlighting all the beautiful corn available right now, we will also prepare a sweet corn and ricotta cannoli with pine nuts.

Be sure to stop by and see Steve at the Falls Church Farmers Market Chef demonstration on Saturday July 30th from 9am to 11am.

FOOD: All You Can Eat at Hokkaido Seafood Buffet

July 1, 2011 by · 4 Comments 

All You Can Eat Seafood Buffett


BY Ra Chan

Special To Falls Church Times

July 1, 2011

I’ve been eyeballing this place for a while; every time I drive along Route 7, I have to slow down just a bit to see the progress of this place. When Hokkaido Seafood Buffet finally opened it’s doors, I had to check it out to see if it’s worth coming back.

As you walk in, the restaurant space is huge. The booth type seating was a little strange to me though, I didn’t feel that it had a very diner friendly flow. But looking around, I noticed a wide range of food options: sushi, cold seafood, a teppanyaki station, soups, steamed seafood, traditional buffet offerings and the standard dessert options. I walked around and got a little bit of everything that caught my eye, that way, when I go for my second round, I know where to spend my time.


The sushi was average, but what can you expect from a buffet? I was impressed that they had a large selection of nigiri and sashimi. I steered clear of the raw oysters, mussels and clams. I tend to get a little nervous about eating raw seafood that’s been sitting out for too long. I didn’t try the teppanyaki station, but the meat and seafood looked really fresh and there were a wide assortment of veggies and noodles to create your own meal. What impressed me most about Hokkaido was the large selection of steamed seafood; you had your choice of a few different steamed and fried fish, garlic clams, black bean oysters, salt and pepper shrimp, salt and pepper crab, steamed whole crab, crawfish and of course, no buffet is complete without steamed snow crab legs. And all this for only $18.95! The dessert and fruit stations were a little disappointing. I didn’t see any fresh fruit, except for some orange and honeydew slices. Everything else was straight out of the can, syrup and all. There were a few pastries in the dessert section as well, macaroons, cookies and slices of cake.


Overall for a buffet, I thought the selection was great, but the flavors and tastes were mediocre. I think the winner here would be the steamed seafood station. If I were to come back, I’d definitely spend my time feasting on the steamed crab, crawfish and snow crab legs.

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